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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: February 19, 2019 09:06 AM
From: Representative Joanna E. McClinton and Rep. Donna Bullock
To: All House members
Subject: Keeping families together by allowing community-based sentencing alternatives for non-violent crimes
Children deserve to be in the loving care of a parent or primary caretaker. Sadly this is not the case for many children in Pennsylvania, whose parent/primary caretaker has been convicted of a low-level or non-violent offense and mandated to incarceration. It is for this reason that I am introducing legislation to direct courts to sentence primary caretakers and parents with children under the age of 18 to an individualized community based sentence in instances where the offense is considered low-level and non-violent.

Currently, judges in Pennsylvania have the authority to choose a sentence of non-confinement and order the offender to complete a number of rehabilitation services, if the offense is considered low-level and of a non-violent nature. My legislation would require courts to determine if the offender is a primary caretaker of a child under the age of 18, and if so, hand down an individually-assessed sentence without confinement that will leave the primary caretaker in the home.

Children do better socially and academically if they are allowed to maintain kinship, social, and community based relationships. Allowing parents/primary caretakers to remain in their homes and communities while serving their sentence would strengthen family bonds, help offenders to remain a part of the workforce, and maintain connections with their communities.

There are 2,857 women incarcerated in the state of Pennsylvania, this constitutes 6% of the prison population but this number continues to rise as the female population is the fastest growing incarcerated population and is on target to double in the upcoming years. Six percent may seem like a small amount considering the larger incarcerated population, however when you consider the fact that 80% of incarcerated women are identified as the primary caretaker of children and that it is their incarceration that has the most impact on our communities and on future generations.

The fact is, children of an incarcerated parent/caretaker are more likely to drop out of school, engage in delinquency, and eventually become incarcerated themselves. This is why it is imperative that we provide opportunities for families to remain intact, by offering alternative individualized community based sentencing. Many states are changing the way they choose to sentence primary caretakers, and we should also.

Please join me in helping current and future generations to grow and succeed, by supporting this legislation.

Introduced as HB772